Ask the coach -What age should you start grooming your new puppy?

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Todays ask the coach question comes from Kathy and she asks,

“At what age should I have my new Shih-tzu puppy groomed?  We just adopted an 8 week old male shih-Tzu and have been told he will need grooming. His fur is currently short and doesn’t seem to need grooming yet.  Someone also said we should wait until he has had all of his vaccinations before we have him groomed by a professional.  What is the best age to start grooming our puppy?

This is a great question and one that we not only get asked frequently but also one that creates confusion for new puppy parents. The short answer , and this is critical – “AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!”  The key is to find a groomer that is experienced in how to socialize the puppy to the grooming process in a positive, low stress way.

Regardless of the breed, all dogs need some form of grooming.  To maintain good health and coat, all dogs need at least to be brushed, bathed, and have their ears cleaned and toe nails trimmed.  Ear infections are common in dogs and are very painful, keeping your pets ears cleaned will help prevent this.  Nails that become too long may deform the feet, make it hard for the dog to walk, and will curl around and embed in the skin, causing pain and infection.

That being said, some breeds need more grooming than others and need to see a professional groomer every four to six weeks.  It is also a good idea to send short coated breeds to the groomer regularly as well, even though they do not need their fur trimmed, having a professional groomer clip the toenails, clean the ears, and bathe your dog is beneficial.   Professional groomers have professional products and equipment that will help with your pets skin and coat and even help with shedding.  Many times a groomer will identify problems that you could be unaware of, such as ear infections, fleas or ticks, lumps and skin problems.

It is a common misconception that you should wait to have your puppy professionally groomed until it is around 6 months old.   Reasons cited are that the puppy’s fur is not that long and they want to have all vaccinations before sending their dog to the grooming salon. I can attest, groomers everywhere cringe when they look at their schedule and  see a 6 month old puppy coming in for the first grooming.

Years ago, the advise to new puppy parents was to keep their puppy at home until it had its final set of vaccinations which is around 12 – 16 weeks old.  Most veterinarians, dog trainers and pet professionals have changed their view of this in the recent years.  The evidence is that the risk of your puppy developing a behavioral problem from lack of proper early socialization far out ways the risk of them contracting a fatal disease if you socialize them before the full set of vaccinations.   The key here is “proper early socialization”.  You do not want to take your new puppy to places where the health and vaccination status of other animals is questionable, like a dog park or a pet store, or where there are known sick animals, however puppies need proper socialization to become stable adults.  Lets take a look as to why this is so….

From seven to sixteen weeks of age your puppy enters the socialization stage which is a critical stage and the most important stage in his development.  This critical stage, and what happens to  your puppy during it, will determine how behaviorally sound he will be when he becomes an adult.  Puppies that are socialized properly during this stage become stable adult dogs with minimal issues of fear or aggression.  Puppies that are not socialized properly at this stage, can develop fear, anxiety, aggression and behavioral issues. Many behavioral problems in dogs are due to the lack of proper socialization during this imprinting stage of development.   During this stage of development, puppies also go through a fear imprinting phase or “fear period” which means whatever the puppy comes into contact with that causes fear or pain, can stay with him for life.  This is why it is important that everything you expose your puppy to be kept positive.

If you wait to expose your puppy to the grooming process until he is older, he will not have been exposed to all  the sights, sounds, smells, and required handling during this critical phase,  therefore will become fearful and anxious of the new experience, which often times will lead to aggression on the grooming table.   Many dogs go through a second fear period during adolescence (six to eight months) and if taken to the grooming shop for the first time during this period, may become so frightened that it will be hard to desensitize them to the grooming process later.

Sooner is better than later when it comes to exposing your puppy to the grooming process.  Many show- dog breeders start grooming their puppies at 3 weeks of age, before they are even weaned.  This early exposure leads to a dog that is extremely comfortable on the grooming table as he has done it his entire life.

Another reason waiting to groom your dog is so detrimental is because, unless you are very good at thoroughly brushing your dog, he more than likely will develop matted fur. Matted fur is painful to remove, which in turn will cause negative associations to the  grooming process, which in turn will contribute to problems on the grooming table.

When it comes to grooming your dog, the key is to find a groomer that understands and is familiar with puppy development and how to create a positive experience for your puppy.  Make sure the salon requires all adult dogs be fully vaccinated, and the puppies at least have one set of puppy vaccinations.  The first grooming, most likely, will not be to remove much fur from your puppy. Generally, the first grooming consists of a bath, nail trim, ear cleaning, blow dry and trimming around the eyes, feet and sanitary area. The key is to keep the interactions as short and as positive as possible. If the salon requires your puppy be there for the day or if your puppy will be put in a kennel during the process, it is a good idea to take a toy or chew for your puppy to play with while he waits.  You may also request that they take the puppy outside for a bathroom break or two while he is in their care.  At Super Mutts, since we are also dog trainers, we always provided these things for the puppies in our care because it is the right thing for the puppy, but many salons do not.  Always ask if the salon has a protocol for puppies, if you are not comfortable, don’t hesitate to find another salon that does.

There are a number of things you can do at home that will help your puppy before he goes to the salon.  Many salons have pamphlets on things you can do to help socialize your puppy to the grooming experience.  Take your puppy to the salon ahead of time just for a meet, greet and treat!  Ask if they have any handouts for you to get started at home. A good salon will appreciate you taking initiative in your puppies grooming needs. They can also show you how to properly brush your dog at home and may have handouts on specific breeds and grooming requirements.

Our book Puppy Montessori is available on Amazon.com and is a great resource for new puppy parents. The book goes into further detail about developmental levels, socialization, and things you should do before your puppy goes to the salon.

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach, and pet stylist. She is the owner of Supermutts.com and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 23 years’ experience professionally working with dogs.  She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. As boarding and daycare facility owners together with her husband Kenneth she has cared for thousands of dogs and has thousands of hours observing, studying and modifying canine behavior. 

You can read more or purchase her book at www.supermutts.com

 

 

 

 

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3 reasons dog obedience doesn’t work!

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Properly trained, a man can be a dog’s best friend ~ Corey Ford

When it comes to training your dog, many people think of or have taken their dog to obedience classes.   Obedience is great in that it builds a common language between you and your dog. Obedience builds trust and respect between you and your dog. Obedience can help control a dominant dog and create confidence in an unsure dog. Obedience can also help keep your dog safe.  An obedient dog is more enjoyable in that he can join you on adventures outside the home and will listen to you in any situation.  Many people are involved in competition obedience which can be fun for both human and dog.

So, if obedience does all this, why is it that we have heard many people say, “I took my dog to obedience class but it didn’t stick.” There are three reasons why obedience classes do not work for some people.

  1. Most people will work with their dog during class and will do the homework for the six  weeks that the class is scheduled for.  After this time however, many people do not work with their dog daily if at all.  People assume that the six-week program is all their dog needs to learn how to be a “good” dog for the rest of its life.  This thinking is comparable to saying  children only need to go through kindergarten.  A dog’s training goes on for its entire life.  Basic obedience teaches a dog basic commands that you then use daily for their entire lives in many different situations.
  2. People are not consistent with the training.  They may do obedience “drills” with their dog but do not work the dog in other situations such as in public, when guests come over etc.  The dog quickly learns that the human is not consistent; he only has to do these obedience commands during the drills but at no other time. Dogs are contextual which means you have to work your dog in every situation that you want him to be obedient in.  Obedience should be used in every aspect of your dog’s life; when  you go to the park, to a friend’s house, out for a walk, in your neighborhood, or to the veterinarian.  Anywhere you take your dog , obedience should come into play.  This is how you get an obedient dog in any situation
  3. Leadership or behavioral problems, not obedience.  Obedience classes do not solve behavioral problems and sadly people wait until they are having behavioral problems to start an obedience program.  Obedience helps with leadership and behavioral issues but alone does not establish leadership. Obedience with a solid leadership program is what helps solve behavioral issues.

Case Study:

Several years ago, on a camping trip, was a woman that had rescued a large dog that she brought with her.  The dog was tied out on a corkscrew ground stake.  On two occasions, the dog lunged and tried to bite two people, one being a child.  Upon bringing it to the woman’s attention, she put her dog on leash and proceeded to do obedience drills to show “how obedient her dog was.”  The dog performed the drills as expected.  Despite the dog understanding obedience, the owner clearly used obedience improperly.  It was also clear that she did not establish a leadership program with the dog.  The dog has an aggression problem that obedience can help if used in the right context.  Most importantly, the owner needs to put a leadership plan in place in conjunction with obedience.

The proper way to handle this dog was first to never put the dog in a scenario in which he could potentially harm someone or behave in an aggressive manner.  You cannot change a dogs behavior if he is tethered thirty feet away from you.  The dog should have been tethered to the owner.  At times when this was not possible, he should have been kenneled.  While on leash, the human could work on sit/stay and down/stay while the dog was tethered to her and around other people.  She would have the ability to reinforce good behavior, create positive associations with people, and also the ability to correct unwanted behavior if necessary.  She could have taught the dog what is allowed and what is not allowed around people.  Instead, the dog learned nothing accept that after an outburst he had to do obedience drills.

Obedience can create a trusting bond between you and your dog. Obedience is a great way to teach your dog what behaviors are acceptable in your home and in society especially if started early, practiced often and in the right context.

So, the next time you find yourself or someone you know saying that obedience didn’t “stick”, stop and consider these three possible causes and adjust accordingly.

 

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach, owner of Super Mutts Canine training and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 20 years experience professionally working with dogs.  She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. She is an  AKC/ CGC, CGCU, Community Canine and S.T.A.R. puppy evaluator.

You can read more or purchase her book at www.supermutts.com 

It’s not the dog!

 

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While walking a clients dog yesterday, I heard these words coming from my neighbors garage, ” Trixie come here, come on , come on Trixie, You want to go bye bye don’t you? GET OVER HERE NOW!!”

This brought to mind the numerous times in our dog training business we have heard people say , “My dog does not listen to me.” Our response to this statement is always, “It’s not the dog.” Actually, the majority of training issues are not the dog. The real reason for many problems is lack ( of the human) teaching the dog to listen. Another reason is that people assume dogs understand the human language without ever teaching them this language. Lets break down the above scenario to better explain.

1) “Trixie come over here”

Mistake number one: The dog is not on leash.
Putting a leash on the dog gives you control and stops the dog from running away. The leash allows you to guide the dog into position.

Mistake number two: Too many words used.
“Trixie come over here” Is not a command. The dog clearly was not taught what the command “come” means. If the dog is not taught a command, she will not comply, she cannot perform what she was never taught. Even if she was taught the word, the man coupled it with a series of other words which confuses the dog.

Mistake number three: No motivation.
The man had nothing to reward the dog with and therefore no motivation for the dog to come to him. All the other fun things in the garage are much more rewarding to check out than the human who is saying words the dog doesn’t understand.

2) “Come on, come on Trixie”

Mistake number one: As stated above, coupling too many words together confuses the dog

Mistake number two: Repeating a command.
Repeating a command without motivation for the dog to comply. By repeating a command, the dog is taught to ignore your words because they mean nothing.

3) “You want to go bye, bye don’t you?”

Mistake number one: Humanizing the dog.
Assuming the dog knows what this statement means is humanizing the dog. When we speak to our dog in this fashion the dog hears, “wa, wa, wa, wa”
again, this teaches that words mean nothing.

Mistake number two: Putting a command in the form of a question.
Dog’s do not understand questions and commands should never be given in the form of a question. This statement is not a command as stated above.

4) The final and most devastating command, “GET OVER HERE NOW!” in an angry tone.

Mistake number one: Yelling at a dog.
Yelling at the dog to come to you is the most detrimental thing a person can do to the learning process. The person is teaching the dog NOT to come to him. You should never yell at, spank, slap or punish your dog in any way once he comes to you. By yelling at a dog after he comes, you are punishing him for coming to you. By yelling to get the dog to comply, you are creating a negative association with your dog coming to you. The dog will be less likely to come in the future.

Mistake number two: Again, not a command. Too many words used that the dog clearly cannot understand.

There are three stages when training a dog.

1) The learning stage
2) The reinforcing stage
3) The proofing stage

You have to complete one stage before you can move on to the next. Many training issues come from mistakes made in the learning stage of training.

The correct way for the man in the garage to handle this situation was to first properly teach the dog a solid recall and work on it daily. A dog without a solid recall should never be off leash. The man should be wearing a treat pouch, Rewards should be readily available when teaching a dog anything. If the man wants the dog to learn that the command “bye bye” means go to the car, he should teach the dog by saying the word “bye bye” and guiding the dog with a leash to the car, rewarding when he jumps in.

So you see, it is not the dog, it is the person who is failing the dog. Once you teach a dog to ignore your commands, You will have a more difficult time teaching them to listen in the future. Often times you will need a dog trainer to help. Remember the saying “Don’t blame me if you don’t train me”

By properly teaching your dog what words mean, and rewarding when the dog performs, you will have a dog that happily listens to you no matter what you say, in any situation.

The next time the neighbor wants his dog to go to the car it should sound like this,  “Trixie come” (dog comes) ,  “bye bye” – (dog jumps in car!)  4 simple words, no frustration.

To learn more training techniques and to keep from making common training mistakes, visit our website and purchase our book Puppy Montessori!

http://www.supermutts.com/puppy-montessori.html

Cindy Quigley is the Owner of Super Mutts Canine Retreat. She is a dog trainer, dog groomer, and author.  She has 19 years professionally working with dogs.